Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Trip # 3 to Istanbul

  Well here we go again...

I realized that I never fully updated after my last trip so before I begin with my current trip I will explain.  I unfortunately miscarried twins last October.  It is believed that it could possibly be due to switching the type of progesterone and my levels being too low to support the pregnancy. I ran out of Crinone which is a vaginal cream suppository that is extremely expensive in the US.  I believe it was going to cost approximately $1200 for a one month supply, so my OBGYN suggested we have glycerin suppositories compounded at a local pharmacy.  The problem with those according to Dr. Arici is that the glycerin melts and once it melts the progesterone is gone.  The Crinone on the other hand slowly releases for hours giving you a constant supply right where it is needed and most important.    The Crinone is very affordable here in Turkey and stupid me I didn't want to jinx it so I didn't bring home any extra like I did the first trip.  I believe I bought four boxes for a couple hundred bucks or less.  My advice is to definitely get extra Crinone in Turkey unless you insurance will cover this specific drug.  

  I also had a polyp removed from my uterus in December.  Both doctors suggested I have it removed to increase the chances of pregnancy. The procedure was done under general anesthesia and was a very quick recovery.  My OB didn't want to mess with my cycle since I was leaving in two months so he just did a hysteroscopy and removed the polyp without messing with the lining.  Normally he might have done a D and C since I had a miscarriage.  

 So now to the current trip....
  My mom and I have been here since Sunday February 16th.  I have three frozen embryos left and saw Dr. Arici on Monday for an ultrasound.  My endometrium was 9mm, which he said was good, so my transfer is scheduled for Saturday.   In the meantime I have to not only take Crinone twice a day, but my nurse mother has to inject PIO ( progesterone in oil) into my hip once a day.  Both of my physicians said you can't really have too much progesterone so because of the low levels and miscarriage both said I need to do both types.  Dr. Arici also said that Crinone won't increase blood levels much so testing doesn't necessarily show a true level.  I don't know how the PIO affects the level of progesterone in the blood, but my OB wants to start blood work as soon as I get back.  
    We went to Istanbul (Euro side) yesterday to visit the spice market again.  It wasn't as crowded like last September, but there were still plenty of locals and a few tourists.  My mom bought some 100% cashmere scarves at Bereket #56 for less than $12!!!!  All the stores are clearly numbered, but sorry I can't remember all of the names.  Remember to shop where the locals shop.  The good stores will not bother you much and won't say they "want to help you spend your money".   She also bought a really pretty box made of camel bone that was hand painted and was able to wiggle him down, and get a cash discount. That was at #69 butik Necati. I bought some dried fruits at one of the large spice stores at the main entrance.  I love the dried strawberries. They weren't pushy at all, which is nice, and have very high quality spices, teas, dried fruits,  and other foods.  If you like saffron ask for Iranian saffron, which is supposedly the best.  Some even will demonstrate the difference between good and so so quality.  We plan on going over to the Euro side again tomorrow and see the Galata Tower and the Basilica Cistern.  I saw some good prices on pistachios at a vendor outside the spice market, so I might pick some up along with some walnuts for my youngest son before we get back on the ferry.   The locals shop for everything from nuts to fish and cheese and other meats at these vendors which you pass on your way into the spice market.  I will keep you updated.  

More on our journey...



Friday, October 5, 2012

  First, I apologize for not keeping the blog up to date.  It sort of got away from me and then the last few days has been an emotional roller coaster.  My two week wait wasn't as bad as the last time.  I was less anxious this time and it helped that we had an extra six days to relax after the transfer.  
   My first Beta HcG was Monday September 24 and it was a BFP at 267.  The second test was that Wednesday and was 585The whole thing was surreal and very exciting but we were still cautiously optimistic.  At that point no more blood work was ordered but my OB scheduled an ultrasound for today.  (Friday Oct 5th)
  All was going well until this Tuesday when I started to spot and and was getting these slight twinges very low in my abdomen.  By Wednesday I was bleeding very heavily and went to see my OB.   On the way to the office I start to have menstrual type cramps.  Miraculously he still saw a gestational sac on the ultrasound.  The thought was that I was miscarrying a twin and that the other one might be OK.  My doctor wasn't for sure since it was hard to see what was going on because of the blood in the uterus  I did another Beta HcG and it was almost 3000 which he said was good.  He put me on bed rest at this point and the plan was to still have an ultrasound today(Friday) and have another Beta HcG this morning.  I did have to go in for an extra shot of progesterone yesterday, just in case. 
  Unfortunately this morning the ultrasound showed that the sac had shifted and was misshapen.  My Beta had dropped to 517 which also wasn't a good sign.  He did say that sometimes when you lose a twin the numbers can drop and then go back up if the other twin is fine.  Unfortunately he thinks that most likely I will miscarry the other twin in the next few days.  He put me on bed rest just in case, gave me another shot of progesterone in oil, his cell phone number, and a script to have another blood test tomorrow.  
  So I sit here writing this blog today with a fading glimmer of hope, praying for a miracle...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

September 10 - 13, 2012
Rest, Relaxation, and a Bed Pan...
  On Monday after we went to the the Sultanahmet area we decided that we needed to rest since my transfer was to be on Tuesday.  We were worn out anyway and needed the time to relax.  We didn't do much at all but hang around the hotel and read. 
  My transfer was Tuesday, that is part of the reason I am behind on blog posts.  Another reason was that we were so busy out and about last week.  The internet is also a problem at times because it can be extremely slow when attempting to load photos in the middle of the day or won't publish my blog for whatever reason, so I often give up after hours of attempt.  Anyway, enough excuses and back to the transfer.  I have been through this part before, but I don't recall without going back in the blog what I said.  I will tell you that the actual transfer of the embryos is the easy part, whether FET or fresh cycle.  However...the full bladder part was excruciating for me this time.  Last time I laid there for an hour after and was only slightly uncomfortable, this time it was awful!
  They want your bladder full so that they can see on the ultrasound.  No problem. nurse came in and pressed and poked around and then another nurse.  This wasn't a big deal, but after waiting in the procedure room for the doctor and then the embryologist your bladder continues to fill up.  Then they do more pressing and poking around and this time I squirmed, a lot!  He has to get the embryos in a good spot for me away from my polyp so maybe that is why it seemed to take longer.  Once he was done they tell you thirty minutes before you can use the bathroom.  THIRTY MINUTES are you kidding me...NO WAY, not this time.  It was so bad that the tears started to fall and the whimpering like a dog at the back door brought in a nurse's aid.  I'm going to be frank here people, the bed pan and I became friends.  Enough said.  

  You are allowed to eat before you come to the transfer but looking back I don't think I recommend it.  Maybe something like a roll but I eat a lot of vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, and fruit which all have a lot of water.  My mother, who is a nurse, brought that up and it makes sense.  That along with the juice or water really flooded me so I would go light if I were you.  

  I was told to take it easy for the first day and do nothing.  I also did nothing Wednesday and don't plan on much today either.  I was told to not be on my feet for more than an hour at a time without a good rest until I take the pregnancy test.  No heavy exercising or lifting either.  That means my mom is stuck with all my luggage and hers.  Sorry Mom, love you!  On the other hand, that means John has to make dinner and do laundry when I get home, right?? Woo Hoo!  Love you honey!

  Oh, one other thing the nurse mentioned, "Don't get constipated."  As if that is completely under our control.  Regardless, I know this isn't the greatest subject, but the diet here is different that most American diets and many times when you travel your body can be affected.  The Crinone progesterone gel can also cause this if I remember correctly so get your fiber and take advantage of the fresh and dried fruits at breakfast, and pick up things like nuts at the markets and make some legumes for dinner.  It is easy to consume a lot of cheese here at every meal so you may want to cut down on that too.     

  Now is the hard part.  For those that have been through this before you know what I am referring to.  The dreaded two week wait.  This time though I am not on the internet stressing about every symptom trying to figure out what they mean.  Am I pregnant or not?? I am glad that I have time before I go back because I can relax and take it easy before the long trek home.  That is exactly what we did for the next three days too.  I took short walks, went to the store on Thursday, and I returned to normal daily activities like cooking dinner, but I took it easy just the same.   

  More on our journey to come...


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 9, 2012
 A Visit to Sultanahmet...
The Blue Mosque from the ferry in the morning - notice the six minarets
The Blue Mosque looking from in front of Hagia Sofia
  This post is a little long but we crammed in a lot, because on this day we decided that we would go over to the European side and see the touristy area of Sultanahmet.  This is the area where the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and the Topkapi Palace are located.  This is also the area where you will get bombarded by carpet salesmen.  At first they will speak to you in English and tell you things that are helpful about the mosque or Hagia Sofia.  They speak to you like you are a friend and walk with you towards your destination. Once you thank them for all of their helpful information then they all end with the same line, " I'm not a tour guide".  Well then, " let me guess, you're a carpet salesman?".  We caught on quickly to that line.  
Hagia Sofia from the ferry in the morning 
Hagia Sofia from across the gardens at the Blue Mosque

 On the Asian side where we stay there isn't a lot of hassling because it isn't where all the tourists are.  In this area it is everywhere and if you show the slightest interest they are very difficult to get away from.  In the line to Hagia Sophia we must have had ten different men ask if we wanted a tour guide.  The same guys would walk back and forth in the line and show you there official tour guide cards several times.  People are also selling things and I mistakenly showed a little interest in one item.  If I had really wanted it I could have bargained very well this way because even though I said no again and again he kept coming back with lower pricesIgnoring the situation is the best as they finally get the picture. 

  Even though I have been to Istanbul three times I had never been to any of the places that we went on this day.  I remember standing in between Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque in the square watching the horse drawn carriages and the throngs of people milling about but that is it.  You really have to have a plan when you go over to this area since you have to travel all the way from the hotel via taxi, train, and ferry to Eminonu.  We did a lot of research and most of what we needed on 
 We learned that there is a tram system that would take us to Sultanahmet and that we needed to get off on the third stop.  Once we got off of the ferry we looked around and had to ask how to get to the tram.  If you are going to the Spice Bazaar you go underground and back up.  If you want to catch the tram you must go left off the boat at Eminonu and take a passage which leads to the other side of the bridge.  Keep asking people for the tram and they will help you.  The advantage of this side of Istanbul is that a lot more people speak English.  You can use the Istanbulkart transportation card for the tram as well and once you find the station and get on the T1 line, Sirkeci is first stop, then Gulhane, then Sultanahmet.  
T1 Tram Line
 This puts you near the Blue Mosque, but you have to walk through a nice park to get there. You will see a stage area in the park just keep walking. The entrance is on the side NOT the front which is closest to Hagia Sophia.  It closes at noon for prayer and we weren't sure if we would get in because the line was long, but it went quickly.  You must either bring a scarf to cover your shoulders or borrow one from the mosque, and you have to take your shoes off and place them in a bag. It is also a good idea to wear long pants for both men and women, although I saw men in shorts.  It is free to get in and pictures are allowed.  We didn't spend much time there but it was nice. The tiles that the nickname Blue Mosque comes from weren't that blue but impressive nonetheless.  The stained glass windows were beautiful as well.

Inside Blue Mosque- getting ready for prayer in worship area     
One of the many tiled walls in the Blue Mosque

  After leaving there and heading towards Hagia Sophia there is a garden with rows and rows of benches. You will find locals and tourists alike enjoying a doner kebap or sipping tea and visiting with each other.  We stopped at an outdoor cafe and split a sandwich before going on the Hagia Sophia.  I meant to mention this before but if you need to use the bathroom anytime while you are out look for a sign that says WC(Water Closet).  You have to pay 1 TL but there is a decent one across from Hagia Sofia next to an outdoor restaurant in front of the hammam.  

  Hagia Sofia or Ayasofya or Saint Sophia as you might see it, was first a Byzantine Church and then a mosque and now a museum.  It costs 25 TL to get in and in most areas you can use a camera with a flash.  Where the mosaics are you can't use a flash but can still take photos.  It really is a beautiful structure and it is amazing how  old it is.  The first church on the site was finished in 360 AD.  The current church at the site was dedicated in 537 AD.  It was the third built after the first two burned down. There is a lot to see in this church and probably my favorite part was going upstairs to take photos looking down into the sanctuary.  There is a steep cobblestone path inside the museum that leads you upstairs.  The whole day was a lot of walking and really could have been spread out.  Especially the palace which I will discuss next.   
No Label Needed :-)

Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia

Can you see the influence of the Christian Church as well as Islam? Look up to the far right.
Couldn't for the life of me get a decent photo but this is the Virgin Mary and Child
Where Byzantine emperors were coronated

One of the many mosaics in the upper gallery
  After strolling through Hagia Sofia we needed a break so we stopped for a bottle of water and a local street bread.  I usually get simit which is a sesame bread that is very common but this bread looked more like an bagel.  It was like a soft egg bagel or challah and my mom liked it better than simit.  At this point it had already been a very long day but we trucked on and headed towards Topkapi Palace. 

The walkway along the wall of the palace

The entrance to Topkapi Palace

   The palace is huge and we barely got to see any of it.  We read that the harem, where all the concubines lived, is a must so we waited in line and paid for the regular tickets and then had to buy a ticket to get into the harem.   It costs 25 TL to get into the palace courtyard and all the buildings except the the harem area which is an additional 15 TL.  We went to the harem first because it was already 2:45 pm and it closes at 4pm.  The rest of the palace is open until later. It really is impressive inside the harem with the painted tiles and beautiful fireplaces.  We learned that the concubines were rarely allowed to leave the palace, about the hierarchy of the woman, and saw the sultan and prince's quarters.  The harem has cobblestone streets, tiled walls, and areas lined with marble columns and floors.  One of the most impressive things are the windows.  

Tiled walls in the harem of Topkapi Palace

Cobblestone walkway inside harem

Inside harem of Tokapi Palace
Sitting area inside harem
Bed chambers inside harem - sultan chambers

One of the beautiful windows with a view of Istanbul

One of the many mosaic glass windows in the harem

My wonderful mother outside the harem of Topkapi Palace

  By the time that we came out of the harem our feet, backs and legs hurt so bad that we didn't go see much else.  We took some photos overlooking the Bosphorus and went in a few more buildings and then made our way out.  We saw a few couples with their wedding attire on taking pictures before we left the palace walls.  There were also a lot of people laying in the grass soaking up the sun.  Overall it was a good trip and I am really glad I finally got to see it after my third trip to Istanbul.

Overlooking the Bosphorus from Topkapi Palace

Wedding Photos
   Since we were so pooped by time that we left we decided to make our way back to the tram stop and find a place nearby to sit and have a drink and a snack.  When you take the tram back to Eminonu it might say Kabatas on the front of the tram.  That is okay, the same tram that drops at Eminonu goes across the Golden Horn and up the coast to Kabatas.  We did not know this and waited over 1/2 an hour for a tram that said Eminonu like the one we missed as we were walking up to the tram stop.  When we finally made it to the ferry it was almost 7pm and the sun was setting. 

    I know this was a long post but it was a long day crammed full of activities and thus lots of pictures to share.  Thanks for reading and more on my journey tomorrow.  This post took me all day as the internet has been very slow so I apologize for being behind.  


Monday, September 10, 2012

  September 8, 2012

  On Saturday we ventured out and went to Princes' Islands.  You have to get to Pendik train station via taxi and then take the train to Bostanci.  We didn't have a schedule for the ferries so when we got there we had missed the first one by thirty minutes.  The next wasn't for another  two and a half hours so we wandered along the water and people watched. There is a wonderful wide path for walking and running and a bike path that runs along the water.  There are children's parks and even an area with exercise equipment that was really nice.  You can also eat at one of the restaurants or sit on a bench or under a tree and watch the boats go by. 

My beautiful mom, Linda, in Bostanci.  Buykada is on the left and Heybeliada is the island on the right.

The port of Bostanci where you catch the ferry. 

  Heybeliada was very quiet and serene and that is where we had lunchWe really liked this island a  lot.  Compared to Buyukada it is like a ghost town, but it had some nice shops and nice restaurants overlooking the water.  There is a military base there that looks like it may house families.  We followed some people off the ferry and walked up a very steep hill to see what was up at the top.  They had apparently been shopping on the mainland and were taking there purchases home because all that was up there was some beautiful views of the Sea of Marmara.  The phaetons or horse drawn carriages easily glide up and down the hill carrying the weary home.  On our walk down we found some great spots to take pictures along the tree lined streets.  We shopped a little and then ate lunch by the water.  

Heybeliada one of the Princes' Islands
Up the hill on Heybeliada. Buyukada and Anatolia (Asian side of Istanbul) are seen in the distance

Beautiful tree lined streets with quaint wooden houses


At the top of the hill on Heybeliada
At the top of the hill overlooking the water
  After a couple hours we took the ferry over to Buyukada and wandered around the shops.  We stopped for some Lokma and gelato.  Lokma are crispy donut holes dipped in a honey syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon.  When they are hot, they are a deliciously sinful treat.  After our treat we noticed a street fair along the water with different booths selling souvenirs so we strolled up and down searching for treasures.  Overall it was a good day, but very long and tiresome because of walking up and down hills and traveling back and forth.   We did bring home the biggest peaches I have ever seen and some other fruits and veggies from a local market. 

Kelly and the Giant Peach....holy cow it is just a little smaller than a softball!  The apple is regular sized and the tomato is a little bigger than a cherry tomato.

Back on the ferry to Buyukada

The center of town: Buyukada
A beautiful hotel

The phaetons waiting for customers on Buyukada

On the way back to Bostanci from the ferry boat. 

More on our journey to come...

September 7th, 2012 
Getting around...
  On Friday September 7th we had to go back to the mall where the grocery store, which is called Kipa is located.  The hotel and hospital are great because they have transportation to and from the mall several times a day.  I usually get enough to eat dinners for about 3 days.  Breakfast of course is eaten  downstairs at the hotel and lunch we usually eat out unless we are here at the hotel.  There is a cafe and a cafeteria in the hospital as well for those that don't want to cook.  On this particular day we totally screwed up and missed the shuttle back to the hotel because I read it wrong.  Unfortunately we had to take a cab back which set me back 28 TL.  

  This trip we have spent a lot of our money in transportation.  Unfortunately the train station that was close is now closed going towards the European side all the way to Pendik.  That is eight stops which strangely equals a 42TL cab ride to the Pendik train station and a 30TL cab ride home.  The taxi drivers from the hospital are much more expensive and to be honest I am almost positive when we were here in the spring that it was only about 25 TL to the same place. The trains, ferries, and trams are very inexpensive but it can add up when you need to use all three twice per trip.  I might see if the free shuttle from this hospital to the other Anadolu hospital in Suadiye will drop us off on the way.   

  By the way if you are coming over here it is a very good idea to buy an Istanbulkart card to travel.  They can be purchased at the kiosks around the train stations and ports.  I believe we got ours on the European side at a kiosk outside of the Eminonu port, but I bet they would have them at the kiosk at the Pendik train station.  It is basically a credit card that you load and swipe at each public transport station.  The kiosks can load money as well or some places like the Bostaci ferry port have machines to load the cards too.  

More to come on my journey...


September 6, 2012

  Yesterday I had my first appointment with Dr. Arici.  It was just like the other exams where they do an ultrasound and see your progress. This time around they look at the thickness of the endometrium.  He said they want at least a 7.5mm(or cm I can't remember).  The Estrace (estradiol) helps to thicken the lining and so I will have to keep taking that for awhile.  He also had me start the Crinone (progesterone) last night as well.  

  On the ultrasound he found the same polyp that I had last time.  The thought last time was that it might shed during a normal cycle, but unfortunately it didn't.  It is small and we will still do the transfer, but he said that if I don't get pregnant this time around he wants me to have it removed back home.   

  The good news is that I don't have to go into the clinic every 3 days and that I don't need any injections this time around.  I will have time to go do a few things and also be able to get extra rest after my transfer next week, which is nice. 

  On the hotel room front we were finally moved to an apartment which means we have to truck back to the grocery store to get food for dinners.  No complaints there actually because we are sick of sandwiches.  

  Today we went to the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar on the European side.  We didn't leave until about 11 am since we had to switch rooms but it was still a long day.  The Grand Bazaar is so huge and many of the booths are the same stuff over and over.  It is worth it to see and if you are a big shopper you can definitely get your fill.  Expect to walk a lot while you are on the European side.  It takes about 15 minutes to get from the Spice Market to the Grand Bazaar but the streets are a little uneven and a lot is uphill.  It was also very crowded this time around as there were several cruise ships in the harbor and overall a lot more tourists than in April. Overall, it was a good day.

Eminonu Port

  The photo above is of the New Mosque at Eminonu port.  This is the port that we take the ferry to from the Asian side of Istanbul after riding the train from Pendik to Haydarpasa.  The Spice Bazaar is the building to the right of the mosque and you have to go under a walkway and back up to get there.  Those beautiful boats in the water sit there all the time as far as I know.  They are fish restaurants that are very popular.  Balik (pronounced Ba-luck) means fish and let me tell you that as soon as you step off the ferry you can smell it.  The boats cook the fish over coals I believe and then put it on bread with lettuce for a sandwich.  Just one of the many commonly eaten street foods.  This area is crazy busy with people especially on the weekends.  It is definitely a hotspot for the young and old.  You will see locals and tourists sitting on the nearby steps eating their Balik sandwiches, fresh corn on the cob, or roasted chestnuts and hanging out. 
Well more on my journey to come...